There was an unusual presentation at this year’s National 4-H Conference, March 20-24, in Washington: “Animal Instincts: Service Learning and Animal Welfare.”
Now the name of the March 23 break-out session doesn’t sound too unusual, but the presenting organization sure was — the Humane Society of the United States.
Hmmm. An anti-animal agriculture, vegan-promoting lobbying organization is presenting information to our brightest youth?
What were organizers thinking?
That’s what a lot of folks would like to know.
The issue came to light April 1 in a blog post by BEEF Web Editor Amanda Nolz. Honestly, at first I thought it was an April Fools’ Day hoax, but then I realized it was no joke.
The presentation was made in two sessions, with about 25 youth in each session, according to the 4-H National Headquarters.
Nolz’s post created a whirlwind of activity and comments in the online world, as folks spread her link like wildfire. Commenters expressed their dismay on the Beef Daily blog, on the national 4-H Facebook page and on Farm and Dairy’s Facebook page.
On the national 4-H Facebook page, one poster called it an “irresponsible decision,” adding, “The opposing viewpoint argument means nothing when you bring in manipulative and corrupt public policy groups whose main goal is to create a vegan society.”
By 6 a.m. April 2, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which houses the National 4-H Headquarters within USDA, posted a statement on its Facebook page, saying the HSUS proposal “was reviewed by the planning committee and found acceptable.”
“… the workshop was approved by the planning committee because the proposal aligned with the goals of the 4-H conference and did not present any indication of anti-animal agriculture views or positions.”
No, but you can’t separate the proposal from the organization presenting it — an organization with a stated goal of reducing animal consumption.
In its call for conference presentations, the National 4-H program stressed that each session must provide take-home resources, and “to encourage them to apply what they learned back home.” That opened the door for the distribution of the 35-page HSUS Mission Humane Action Guide, which encourages youth to set up animal protection clubs, and devotes pages to researching animal issues, “making your voice heard” and raising funds.
If you throw a party, the material suggests showing videos from the HSUS Web site and serving vegan refreshments. And just about every page plugs information available on the HSUS Web site.
“You’ll also learn about lobbying — one of the most effective ways of making change for animals,” says the guide’s message from CEO Wayne Pacelle.
OSU Extension Director Keith Smith issued a statement April 2, saying, Ohio’s 4-H program was “very distressed that this happened at a national 4-H event,” and that the Ohio 4-H organization had expressed that dismay to the 4-H National Headquarters and USDA-NIFA.
“The primary concern about this distribution is that HSUS is well known for its anti-animal agriculture views and positions, and 4-H has a long tradition of providing education in the animal sciences, which includes the dimension of positive animal welfare.”
In its statement, Kansas State University said some of the materials provided by HSUS met the conference’s workshops criteria of “teaching civic engagement, community service, youth volunteerism and impacting community issues.
“However, much of the material was more focused on the HSUS goals.”
Living in a world with blinders on gives us all a narrow perspective, and I believe it does none of us any good to close our ears and minds to opposing viewpoints and opinions. However, I dislike the calculating move by HSUS to target 4-H youth with its subtle anti-animal agriculture message.
If you’d like to voice your opinion, you can e-mail the 4-H National Headquarters at